EV 1537 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1537 (Hints)

Enigmatic Variations 1537 (Hints)

Additive by Kcit

Hints and tips by The Numpties

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Kcit needs no introduction for EV solvers. Dave Hennings’ crossword database tells us that he has been setting them since 1993. This will be his 69th.

Preamble: When the initial grid is complete, the bottom row will be blank, and the central across entry will contain four blank cells (skipped by down entries), adjacent to four components. These components are omitted from the wordplay of several clues – the solvers must count the number of wordplay omissions and enter that number in the blank cell adjacent to that component, thus identifying the ADDITIVE for the bottom row (which will make new words in the grid). 25 other clues have wordplay with an added letter not entered in the grid; in clue order these explain the action of the ADDITIVE. Numbers in brackets give answer lengths; Chambers Dictionary (2016) is recommended; 11 and the final entry in 45 are in ODE.

We needed two coloured strips down the side of the clues, one for the components omitted from wordplay (we spotted the hint that ‘components’ was a significant word) and the other for the ‘added letter not entered in the grid’ that was to give us a helpful message. As is usually the case, the preamble seemed to be presenting rather complex solving requirements and initially had the Numpties mystified, but a pattern emerged in those ‘wordplay omissions’ that led to a penny-drop moment.


2a           Wrong to return in power – not the appropriate time for this? (11)
We needed to remember that letters might be omitted from the wordplay of clues in order to understand how a very short word for ‘wrong’ was to be ‘returned’ in another short word for ‘power’ to give us this 11-letter solution. Like us, most solvers will probably ‘back-solve’ from the word that is appearing as the grid fills.

12a         Hot wind? I’m about to hide in an Indian tree (7)
‘I’m about’ produces two of the wordplay elements and that is ‘in’ an Indian tree. Of course Mrs Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary includes this word for the wind.

16a         Elderly coward getting shiner, belted by thump from local (7)
‘Elderly’ tells us that this is an old word for ‘coward’. We obtain it by putting an obvious word for ‘shiner’ (not bruise this time) in an unusual ‘dialect’ or local word for thump.

18a         Scots deny regret when holding degree back (8)
As usual with Kcit’s compilations, there are Scottish words. The usual crossword word for ‘regret’ has to hold a reversed word for ‘degree’.

32a         American activated what alert in the past? (6)
Remembering that a letter or letters may be omitted from the wordplay of clues, the underlining of the definition should help solvers here. We needed an archaic term for ‘alert’.

34a         Smuggle radish (though not from Wales?) (5)
Again we need a local word for the radish – one that Kcit tells us is used in parts of the UK but not Wales. A very small word for ‘smuggle’ is needed.

41a         Old name of city OK for Australia – local plan accommodating that area (8)
Again, like us, solvers will probably back-solve from the only city (but its ‘old’ name – until the seventies when it dropped the first letter) that fits seven letters that appear in the grid. We didn’t know the four-letter Australian words for ‘OK’ and ‘plan’ that were needed in this solution as two of the three wordplay elements.

48a         Appear to be pursuing Northern source of oil (4)
The wordplay here was less complex when we remembered that there might be an additional letter provided by the wordplay. This source of oil frequently appears in crosswords because of its ‘useful’ letters but we haven’t encountered it in any other context.


5d            Better source of research mostly suspended regarding fatty acids (7)
The definition is an unusual word made up of a short term for ‘to better’ the ‘source’ of the word ‘research’ and a term for ‘suspended’ (well, most of it). Think of that gin and tonic!

6d           Character no longer stumped in competitive Scottish field (6)
We have an old word for ‘character’ here and an abbreviation for ‘stumped’. Chambers explained the surprising definition to us.

15d         Impulse to eradicate good mallow plant (5)
This clue will help if you are still searching for that penny-drop moment. A familiar word for ‘impulse’ needs to lose the ‘good’. The letters needed to complete the solution might help you to understand what is going on in the crossword.

21d          No longer daunt a mother with what mother supplies? (5)
Again Kcit uses an archaic word. A mother provides three letters and the drink that this mother supplies is not milk .

28d         Tax cut – put out?(4)
This tiny clue is tough! You need to shorten a word for tax (that you might pay on something you import, say) and find an old word for ‘put out’ remembering, of course, that an omitted or extra wordplay letter is likely.

30d         Grace has to tour Indonesia (6)
Think of the three graces!

42d         Openings for King Uther, Arthur and Merlin out of place in Coriolanus (3)
Kcit has given us a generous clue to a three-letter word and a hint that it is Shakespearean.

We were given more than one way of reaching the p.d.m. We could have used what was appearing in the central across entry, or attempted to complete the bottom row by working out what new words could appear. One of the pleasures of solving advanced thematic cryptic crosswords like those in the Listener, Magpie, Inquisitor and EV series is learning something new, and, here again, the Internet gave us fascinating information about what the message given by the added letters told us the additive will do.

Do please send in your entry and add your comments here and to the setters’ blogs that are appearing on Big Dave’s site on Thursdays and to the detailed blogs that also appear on Thursdays on  fifteensquared.

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5 comments on “EV 1537 (Hints)

  1. I knew those chemistry lectures would be useful one day. This was extremely challenging at first, until a few pennies dropped. The positions of the blank cells in the centre row were easily determined and I was fortunate to get the first “component” quickly, which provided a major steer about the general nature of the additive. Thus the letters to be inserted into wordplay were clear and the challenge of either adding or subtracting letters made a bit easier. I’m still not entirely sure how the 25 letter message reads [I’m missing a letter] but at least the grid is full!
    Thanks to kciT and The Numpties.

    1. Now sorted. Misled by the possibility of a milk protein. Too much overthinking!

  2. For me this was towards the tougher end of the EV scale, perfect for the Bank Holiday weekend. My favourite clue was 2a for giving such a clever p.d.m.

    Thanks to Kcit for a beautifully constructed and entertaining puzzle and to The Numpties for their blog.

    1. It’s all very clever. Not only is there a major reveal at 2a but also in the action of the additive.

  3. Wondered about such an odd choice of theme… until I found the additive – what a pleasant surprise! Excellent!

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